Applying for financial aid is the key to getting help with paying for college.
Financial aid includes free money like grants, scholarships and work-study, as well as government loans that you repay. You’re likely to end up with a combination of sources, but you should always maximize all free aid before turning to loans. If you do borrow, choose federal loans before private options.
Financial aid: What’s typical?
The type and amount of aid you receive will depend on what you’re eligible for. Here are the average amounts students receive and the portion of annual college costs those amounts typically cover, according to “How America Pays for College,” a study released in 2018 by Sallie Mae and market research firm Ipsos.
|Source||Amount||% of total
|Parent borrowing||Federal parent PLUS loans||$1,112||4.2%|
|Home equity loans or line of credit||$153||0.6%|
|Retirement account loans (including 401[k], Roth IRA or other IRA)||$142||0.5%|
|Student borrowing||Federal student loans, such as direct, Stafford or Perkins loans||$2,216||8.4%|
|Student credit cards||$143||0.5%|
|Student other loans||$453||1.7%|
|Paid by parents from||Parent current income||$5,109||19.3%|
|College savings funds, such as a 529 plan||$1,314||5.0%|
|Other parent savings or investments||$2,248||8.5%|
|Retirement savings withdrawal (including 401[k], Roth IRA or other IRA)||$220||0.8%|
|Paid by student from||Student current income||$1,120||4.2%|
|Other student savings or investments||$713||2.7%|
|Other sources||Scholarships (received from the school or outside organizations or businesses)||$4,393||16.6%|
|Grants (federal, state or school-based)||$2,955||11.2%|
|Relatives or friends (money that doesn't have to be repaid)||$399||1.5%|
The total amount of $26,457 is the average that families spent on an undergraduate education in 2017-18.
To help you navigate the complicated financial aid process, we’ve chosen articles below that address typical questions students have. They’ll even explain the jargon.
Start by finding the description that best matches where you are in the financial aid journey.
You’re not sure if you can get financial aid
You want to know how to estimate your aid
You think your family’s income qualifies you for free aid
You’re not sure how grants are different from scholarships or how to get either one
- Guide to College Grants and How They Differ From Scholarships
- What Is a Pell Grant?
- How to Get a Scholarship
You want a part-time job in college that will help pay for school
You’re not sure what type of loan to get
You’re ready to apply for a federal student loan
- How to Apply for Student Loans: Federal and Private
- Federal Student Loans Review
- Which to Borrow: Subsidized vs. Unsubsidized Student Loans
You’re a parent looking for a college loan
You’re looking for advice to smooth out the application process
You’re ready to apply for federal aid with the FAFSA
- FAFSA: Everything You Need to Know for the 2018-19 Application
- When Is the FAFSA Deadline?
- Ready to Apply for College? Try the myStudentAid Mobile App
Your school wants you to submit the CSS Profile
- How to Complete the CSS Profile
- How Can I Get a CSS Profile Fee Waiver?
- When Is the CSS Profile Deadline?
You received your Student Aid Report
You received your financial aid award letters
You didn’t get enough financial aid
You received the Pell Grant last year
You’re not sure how much you are allowed to borrow each year
You’re at risk of losing financial aid
You lost your financial aid